While most U.S. publications are focusing on the here and now of the war against terrorism, The World & I offers this Special Report, which looks into the causes and challenges of the conflict, beginning with a brief history of the often troubled relationship between the United States and Afghanistan since the latter country achieved independence almost a century ago.
According to the British author and former diplomat Martin Ewans, the two nations have never had close or meaningful relations. In the early years of the Cold War, the United States rebuffed Afghan efforts to develop a relationship because Afghanistan was at odds with Pakistan, a linchpin of the anticommunist Central Treaty Organization (CENTRO). Later, Washington, D.C., provided some developmental assistance so that aid to Afghanistan would not be left exclusively to the communist bloc.
After the Soviets invaded Afghanistan in 1979, writes Ewans, the Carter and Reagan administrations provided only limited help to the mujahideen, the "holy warriors" who formed the center of resistance. That policy changed in 1985, when President Reagan ordered the use of all available means--including Stinger air-to-air-missiles--to compel the Soviets to withdraw.
But with the Soviet exit from Afghanistan in 1989, Ewans points out, international (and U.S.) interest in the country quickly evaporated. Pakistan began supporting a new Afghan movement, the Taliban, that gained power over a divided opposition. In 1996, Osama bin Laden was allowed to return to Afghanistan, where he trained and organized an international terrorist network.
Lacking in the U.S. policy toward Afghanistan, concludes Ewans, are consistent, long-term planning and an appreciation of the country's importance to America's global interests. After years of neglect, a major international effort in Afghanistan is now an absolute necessity. …